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The Joy Luck Club | Study Guide

Amy Tan

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The Joy Luck Club | Part 4, Prologue : Queen Smother of the Western Skies | Summary



A grandmother talks to her baby granddaughter, who is gurgling and laughing. The woman says she was once just as innocent as the baby but became hardened to protect herself. She taught her daughter the same thing, and wonders if suspecting evil within others is a sign of evil within oneself. She pretends the baby is the Queen Mother of the Western Skies in disguise, arrived to give her the answer to her worries, which is to "lose your innocence, but not your hope."


The final epigraph in The Joy Luck Club is about a mother who reconsiders what she has taught her daughter over the years. Syi Wang Mu, the deity whom the grandmother pretends is inhabiting her granddaughter's body, is one of the oldest Chinese gods. She's in charge of everything—life and death, sickness and health, and even life span. She grows "peaches of immortality" on a tree that connects heaven and earth. She has lived forever, so she is able to give sound advice to the troubled grandmother.

The title of this parable, "Queen Smother of the Western Skies," is a play on words. Syi Wang Mu is commonly known as Queen Mother of the West. Tan's use of the word smother is a playful allusion to the often smothering nature of mothers who are eager to give advice to disinterested daughters. Even if the mother in this story figures out how to teach her daughter how to lose her innocence without losing hope, there's no guarantee the daughter will listen.

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